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On February 8, 2024 the nation will head towards the ballot box. Hopefully, the people of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan will get a chance to decide their future course. Like the 1970 electoral contest the stakes are very high.

In the year 1967, when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto announced the formation of his People’s Party, he asked the charged crowd at the YMCA hall on the Mall Road; “Awami or Sarkari”? The unanimous reply was ‘Awami’.

The struggle for ‘Civilian Supremacy’ started that day. The elections that followed were free and fair but the people’s mandate was overruled, power was not transferred to the genuinely elected representatives of the people. Jinnah’s Pakistan was dismembered, rest is history as they say.

In 1973 Pakistan with the enactment of the constitution attained the status of a Republic. By the next election the establishment had regained its lost grounds. On July 05, 1977 Gen Ziaul Haq took control of the country. With the neutralization of the democratic gains, he pushed the country into dark ages, which have continued since then.

It is poised to be a Test match not an ODI (One Day International). Cricket remained a ‘Gentlemen’s Game’ till the Test matches format. Four innings and five days decided the match. It was a test of reliance and fight back. When the Pakistan cricket team ably led by Abdul Hafiz Kardar (Hafeeza Khabu) prevailed over the English team at Lords in the early years, it was considered to be a great victory.

The hero of the match was Fazal Mehmood (Billa). There was no looking back. Pakistan had emerged as a force to be reckoned with in the cricket world. As a child I remember the Tests played at the newly built National Stadium (Qadhafi Stadium now).

At that time the ground was outside the city. The Lahore Omnibus Service (LOS) stopped at the Canal Bridge from where we had to walk to the venue. It was full five days of grueling encounters, teams fought till the last ball. Hanif Muhammad the little master batted for days.

Came as an opener and went not out at the end. He was the lone defender of the wicket as the batting line up was weak. While the crowd wanted entrainment, he played his innings for his team undeterred. While Pakistan was unable to win yet he single- handedly snatched draws with honour against best teams.

Cricket changed forever when Kerry Packer in Australia came up with the idea of ODIs. It was thrilling and enchanting game, rightfully termed as ‘Packer Circus’. Initially, the ICC (International Cricket Council) declared it illegal and players were barred from playing in these encounters.

Commercialization and money followed at times leading to match fixing and cheating as well. Once a relaxing gentlemen’s game turned into a win at all costs marathon exercise. Although Pakistan won the ODI World Cup in 1992 under the Kaptan yet victory in Test series has always carried more reverence and respect for the grit and fighting spirit of the teams. It was under the leadership of Kaptan that Pakistan was able to win Test series in India and West Indies the leading teams of their times.

February 8 is the first innings of the five-day Test. Kaptan will be part of the playing eleven from his prison cell. Three innings will remain to be played before the contest is finally over. Pakistan prevailed in India and West Indies despite non-neutral umpires as the game was well fought till the last ball snatching victory from the jaws of defeat despite poor umpiring decisions.

The people of Pakistan are destined to win the match for which the battle lines are clearly drawn. But one must be magnanimous in victory and graceful in defeat even if the umpires are not neutral. Pakistan and its people must come first.

In the words of my late father Nazir Ahmed Malik in the end it is the game of stamina. Those who refuse to give in prevail over the wrongs of the system and the individuals who support it. Status-quo was never an option nor will it be in the times to come. Only change is inevitable and permanent.

No innings should be taken lightly. One has to fight hard to set the tone of the match. Batting, bowling, fielding are all important. National election on February 8 is a test of our grit and fight back taking the Test to its logical end by standing at the wicket like the Little Master.

Once we approached him in the pavilion and conveyed our dismay at his boring but long innings at the crease. We were surprised by his words, “I play for my country, have to judge every ball and play appropriate strokes, have to hold the team together even at the cost of cramps and stiffness “. It was Hanif Muhammad the invincible who never threw his wicket.

He never played an ODI but is remembered for his historic innings and the 337 not out in one of his matches which remained an un-beaten record for a long time. Let us all pad up for a long innings at the crease. The compromised pitches and umpires should not deter us. Kaptan understands the game of cricket well, he has been an all-rounder who never bowled a no-ball and batted with courage. While Hanif played for draws, Kaptan has several decisive innings to his credit.

(The writer is ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation; email: [email protected])

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Dr Farid A Malik

The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation; email:[email protected]

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KU Feb 08, 2024 06:49pm
Hope and virtue and all other goodness in humans is a direct result of fulfilment of basic human needs, since our leaders are rich and country bankrupt, economy, people and their future will suffer.
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